Sports Analogies and War

Our president, like lots of presidents before him, is fond of using sports and game analogies when discussing deadly force and mass destruction, whether he's referring to somebody else's potential or his own plans to generate same. For example, just before the train wreck at the Security Council, Mr. Bush challenged our former allies to "show your cards."

Maybe he's on to something, even if he isn't holding the full house of a coalition he'd like to be able to count on, and even if, when the French did show their cards, Mr. Bush chose to leave the table. But enough with the poker talk. Perhaps we all should begin thinking of the war itself in whatever sports terms we can apply.

Consider, for example, basketball.

We'll go with the run-and-gun offense, and we'll have almost all the good guns.

In baseball terms, we will be bringing some series heat in Iraq. We'll be going with the high, hard one. We'll be playing long ball.

In hockey terms, we'll be taking the body.

Tennis, anyone? We'll be going for aces with our cannonball serves.

If language like this obscures the reality of war — a reality that involves hideous deprivation among civilians in addition to bloody and violent death, so much the better for Mr. Bush.

He's more likely to retain support in this country if he can convince people to see him as a canny poker player rather than a rube who's failed as a diplomat, alienated some of this country's closest allies, and resorted to violence and buying the support of various other nations when this country apparently can't afford to keep its halfway houses, homeless shelters, and school lunch programs going.

To shift the metaphorical playing field once more, if Mr. Bush can convince voters that he's the manager of a winning team playing on the road, maybe they'll forget that the stadium back home seems to be falling apart.

This program aired on March 19, 2003. The audio for this program is not available.

Headshot of Bill Littlefield

Bill Littlefield Host, Only A Game
Bill Littlefield was the host of Only A Game from 1993 until 2018.



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